Originally published on Tue August 6, 2013 8:56 am
Marisha Pessl's dark, cinematic and wildly over-the-top new novel, Night Film, starts with a mysterious death: Ashley Cordova, troubled former child prodigy and daughter of mysterious filmmaker Stanislas Cordova, is found dead at the bottom of a disused elevator shaft, an apparent suicide. Disgraced investigative journalist Scott McGrath thinks there's more to the case.
In Choire Sicha's Very Recent History: An Entirely Factual Account of a Year (c. AD 2009) in a Large City, a voice from our future looks back at events taking place in a "massive" East Coast metropolis, its citizens perpetually gripped with "a quiet panic" while living in a gritty landscape of iron and excess. Throw in a mysterious virus, a rich, blind governor, a sketchy mayor campaigning for a third term, and this novel gets even more curious.
Dan Balz, one of the nation's most respected political reporters, has written his review of the last presidential election — what happened and why.
It's called Collision 2012: Obama vs. Romney and the Future of Elections in America.
The chief correspondent for The Washington Post, Balz is the author of several books, including one on President Obama's first election — The Battle for America 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election — written with Haynes Johnson.
For Robert Pinsky, the pleasure in poetry comes from the music of the language, and not from the meaning of the words. So he put together an anthology of 80 poems that are models by master poets-- from Sappho to Allen Ginsberg, Shakespeare to Emily Dickinson.
Robert Hayden was born in Detroit 100 years ago Sunday. He became the first African-American to receive the honor now known as "poet laureate." Among his most famous works is the collection of short poems called Elegies for Paradise Valley. We hear an excerpt from the collection, as read by the author in 1976.
In the summer of 1969, all eyes were on Los Angeles, where nine people had been murdered. Among the dead was Sharon Tate, a movie star and wife of movie director Roman Polanski. Police said a cult called "The Family" was responsible.
The leader of The Family was the charismatic, ruthless and manipulative Charles Manson. America was captivated by him, and by the young women who, under his spell, had snuck into two houses in Los Angeles to murder people they had never met. The trial was nationally broadcast, and Manson became a household name.
This is WEEKEND EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. If you watched "Saturday Night Live" in the 1990s, you might remember this:
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As announcer) And now, deep thoughts by Jack Handey.
JACK HANDEY: Maybe in order to understand mankind, we have to look at the word itself, mankind. Basically, it's made up of two separate words: mank and ind. What do these words mean? It's a mystery, and that's why so is mankind.
Sixteen years ago, Rob Sheffield had everything going for him. He was young, ambitious, working as a music critic in Charlottesville, Va., and married to the woman he thought he'd spend the rest of his life with.
All that changed suddenly when his wife died of a pulmonary embolism. Sheffield was a widow and not yet 30 years old.
There were many factors that helped him dig himself out of the deep depression that followed: moving to a new city, the simple passage of time. But the most unexpected antidote for his grief came in the form of karaoke.
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's latest book is Oleander Girl.
I was about 12 when I first encountered The Moonstone — or a Classics Illustrated version of it — digging through an old trunk in my grandfather's house on a rainy Bengali afternoon. I loved the Classics Illustrated series (the graphic novels of my youth that simplified famous novels for children), presenting us with swashbuckling plotlines, and heroes and villains that were unmistakably, unashamedly, what they were supposed to be.
On-air challenge:This week's puzzle is called "What's in a Name?" Every answer consists of the names of two famous people. The last name of the first person is an anagram of the first name of the last person. Given the non-anagram parts of the names, you identify the people. For example, given "Madeleine" and "Aaron," you would say "Kahn" and "Hank."
Last week's challenge: In three words, name a product sold mainly to women that has the initials N-P-R. The answer is a common phrase.
When you hear the word dandy, what do you think of?
Maybe the song "Yankee Doodle Dandy," which dates all the way back to the Revolutionary War, and compares the colonists to foppish, effeminate idiots: the dandies.
But a summer exhibit at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, closing Aug. 18, aims to reclaim the term. It explores dandyism through the ages, linking to the cutting edge of men's fashion and style. The name of the show is "Artist, Rebel, Dandy: Men of Fashion" — which does still leave you wondering what you might see.
When Robert Klein was a busboy in the Catskills, he saw the best Jewish comedians of the day. From Rodney Dangerfield and Mel Brooks, to comedy in its modern form, Klein was there to see the evolution of what makes us laugh. It made him the perfect person to narrate the documentary that opened this week in New York City, When Comedy Went to School. It's a look back at how many famous comedians got their start by spending their summers in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York.
Originally published on Mon August 5, 2013 9:57 am
This piece discusses plot points in detail from the first four and a half seasons of Breaking Bad, but nothing from the Aug. 11 season premiere.
If television's golden age has taught viewers anything, it is to expect that explosive, violent death is an integral part of serious storytelling. The history of literature and the history of film teach that there are other ways to achieve high stakes. But if you go looking for premium, celebrated television dramas that don't involve a lot of bloody kills, you will narrow your options considerably.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. Since 2000, the Third Coast International Audio Festival has been curating some of the best audio stories from around the world. One of the submission categories is: short documentaries. These are pieces no longer than three minutes. This year's theme for short docs was: appetite. Joining us from member station WBEZ in Chicago to talk about the winners is Third Coast's artistic director Julie Shapiro. Hey, Julie.
With Linda still out at the TCA gathering, TV is much on our minds. And as she noted yesterday, there's a whole big conversation going on about the newer modes of consuming what we still, for lack of a better word, generally call television.
(Actually, we probably don't need a better word, as "television" just means "far-sight" and doesn't have anything to do with broadcast or spectrum or modes of transmission or the technology involved, BUT I DIGRESS.)
On the Noodle Road is one attempt to answer an old chestnut: Did Marco Polo really bring noodles from China to Italy? If not, where did they really come from? Or — to put it another way — from what point along the storied byways of the Silk Road did that humble paste of flour and water first spring into its multifarious existence?
Mike Odette, chef and co-owner of Sycamore Restaurant in Columbia, Mo., is trolling the local farmer's market. He usually hunts for ingredients for his next menu, but today he's searching for veggies to take on a picnic.
A slaw using creamy mayonnaise might spoil in the summer heat. So Odette favors a simple summer vinaigrette that's equal parts cider vinegar and sugar. He recommends making it the night before.
"It benefits from sitting in the refrigerator overnight," he says, "so the flavors can develop, and you could even dress your slaw on your picnic."
There are plenty of small-town guys who stick around, get a boring job and dream of writing a great novel. And nothing ticks off those guys like the ones who actually pull it off: Charles Frazier's first novel, Cold Mountain, was an international best-seller, and he followed it up with Thirteen Moons and Nightwoods.
Here in Asheville, N.C., we've invited Frazier to play a game called "I'm listening, Seattle." Three questions for Charles Frazier about Frasier Crane, fictional radio psychiatrist.
Our Children, a quietly devastating Belgian domestic drama, opens with a shattered young woman on an IV drip. Then the action moves swiftly back to that same woman, radiantly in love and eager to tell Andre, the man her beloved calls father, that she's planning to marry his boy.
If there's actually a secret Hollywood movie formula, we want to see the proof. In a game that will take you right back to your beloved high school algebra and geometry classes, host Ophira Eisenberg asks contestants to combine the titles of well-known movies with mathematical terms. For example, "Rectangled" combines the polygon "rectangle" with the title of the film Tangled.
What's your favorite franchise of Bravo's Real Housewives, Atlanta or New Jersey? How about The Acropolis? In this game, host Ophira Eisenberg stirs up the celestial domestic drama by performing imagined on-camera quotes from female Greek mythological figures. Can you guess the goddess?
Plus, Jonathan Coulton pays homage to another powerful lady with a cover of Bananarama's "Venus."
Don't freak out, but this game combines one part name-that-tune, one part doing-math-in-your-head, and a dash of The Proclaimers. It'll be fun, we promise. House musician Jonathan Coulton performs songs that feature a number in their titles, but the numbers have been replaced by algebraic expressions. Contestants must solve for 'x' to make the mathematical expressions in the songs correct.
When you hear the phrase, "I need a Band-Aid immediately!" is your instinct to reply, "Actually, it's called an 'adhesive bandage,' Band-Aid is a brand"? Don't be that person--unless you're playing along with this game. Host Ophira Eisenberg offers the generic name and description of a particular product, and you must name the specific trademarked name that commonly describes it.
To mark the final season of the TV show Breaking Bad, we've based this game on its opening credits, in which elemental symbols for Bromine (Br) and Barium (Ba) help spell the show's title. House musician Jonathan Coulton asks contestants to spell words using more symbols from the Periodic Table.
Plus, Coulton competes this round with a cover of "Particle Man" by They Might Be Giants.
Now we're going to crown this week's grand champion. Let's bring back from Breaking It Down, Avidan Ackerson. From Generically Speaking, Erin Barker. From Algebraic Music, Diane Firstman. From Real Housewives, John Rennie. And from Hollywood Formulas Chris Kairalla.
EISENBERG: I want to ask our puzzle guru John Chaneski to take us out and crown a winner.
When you check social media and you're not caught up on your favorite TV show, say, you never know when you might encounter a spoiler. Somebody on Twitter, some blog says too much about what happened in a plot line. My big spoiler moment came when I saw a post about a death on "Downton Abbey" and I thought that everything was just ruined. But is it really that bad when this happens? NPR's Neda Ulaby has this encore story about how spoilers might actually make you enjoy something more.
Hypermacho but tongue-in-cheek, the first 20 minutes of 2 Guns are enormous fun. Tough guys Bobby and Stig (Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg) bicker and flirt — with a pretty diner waitress, and with each other — while casing a small-town Texas bank.
Then they set the diner on fire, don masks, and knock over the bank for $43 million, all while taking care to save any cops from getting hurt and even kissing an available baby. The heist, it would seem, has gone according to plan. Yet something's a little off.